Between 8000 and 3200 B.C the Mesopotamians used clay “tokens” to count their goods. Each shape represented a word, or logogram. However, the rise of the state in about 3200 B.C increased the complexity of the information they wished to store, and so clay tablets were used to record script composed of the symbols on the tokens. From 3100 B.C, the state required each person to record their name along with details of their goods. As writing personal names logographically was very difficult, a system of phonetic writing was developed which gradually evolved into Cuneiform (the script used by the Babylonians and Assyrians).
Until recently it was thought that the Mesopotamian system predated that of the Ancient Egyptians, but evidence dating from the reign of King Scorpion (roughly 3400 BC) suggests that the Egyptian system may have predated that of Mesopotmia.
copyright J Hill 2010